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Gov. Phil Bryant

Gov. Bryant flips on trade pact since 2015

DONALD J. TRUMP

By JACK WEATHERLY

Gov. Phil Bryant said in a December 2015 interview that he supported the United States joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I hope it’s approved, and I hope that we’re a strong part of it,” Bryant told the Mississippi Business Journal.

Yet Bryant, a staunch supporter of Donald J. Trump, who has since been elected president and “vetoed” America’s participation in the free-trade group, said in an email last week that “I have full confidence that President Trump’s trade policies will benefit every state, including Mississippi.”

Trump’s executive action is “showmanship,” Dr. Marty Wiseman, director emeritus of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State, said in an email on Tuesday.

“The TPP deal requires congressional action and it had been so demonized by Trump’s rhetoric claiming that it was similar trade deals (i.e. NAFTA) that drained jobs from the United States that it likely would have never been taken up by the new Congress.

“Governor Bryant is merely trying to please President Trump.  If the President did a 180 on TPP tomorrow I am sure Governor Bryant would also.”

» READ MORE: Mississippi manufacturer betting on a weaker dollar

The would-be members of the group are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The state is already a trading partner with all of those nations, accounting for nearly 38 percent of Mississippi’s exports in 2014, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The Mississippi Development Authority has led or is planning trade mission trips to eight of the TPP nations.

The MDA, which is under the authority of the governor’s office, conducts one or two of the trips to Canada annually.

Chile is also on the trade mission agenda with one trade mission and show annually.

The agency will lead potential Mississippi traders to Japan in August.

Mexico has been the destination of trips in 2013 and 2015 and January of this year.

Vietnam played host to an MDA trip last July.

Singapore and Malaysia will be on the trade trip list for next year.

The MDA announced on Tuesday a business development trip to India May 1-9.

The agency conducts eight to 10 mission trips each year.

A trip to Cuba is planned for Feb. 20-24. Trump’s position on trade with the communist nation has not been announced.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) last week announced his support of a new effort, the Agricultural Export Expansion Act, to help create more export opportunities to Mississippi farmers by lifting a U.S. prohibition on private financing for American agricultural exports to Cuba.

Current law only allows upfront cash payments to finance such exports, effectively blocking American farmers from the Cuban market.

“Lifting the private financing restriction on agriculture exports is a step in the process to normalize U.S. agricultural ties with Cuba.  Removing this barrier would help open the door for more Mississippi rice and other agriculture exports,” Cochran said of the measure he co-authored in a release.

Last week, the Trump administration said it was in the middle of “a full review” of U.S. policy toward Cuba, according to CNBC. Former President Barack Obama reestablished embassies with Cuba and now the island nation is being served by U.S. airlines as part of increased tourism.

The governor annually gives awards to top exporters in the state.

One in five jobs in Mississippi is depends on foreign trade, the Business Roundtable has said.

Then-secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said that the TPP would eliminate more than 18,000 tariffs on American products in “some of the world’s fastest-growing markets.”

Here are the top partners for Mississippi in what would be the free-trade pact.

Canada bought $2 billion of Mississippi products in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Mexico was second at $1.1 billion, followed by Japan at No. 9, with $315 million; Peru at 10th with $293 million, and No. 21 Australia at $134 million.

Exports were $10.9 billion in 2015.

Sales of poultry, fresh and frozen,, amounted to $131 million that year.

“The TPP Agreement would likely result in a moderate increase in U.S. poultry meat exports and a small decrease in U.S. poultry meat imports,” states a May 2016 report from the U.S. International Trade Commission.

A message left for Laurel-based Sanderson Farms Inc., the nation’s third-largest poultry processor, was not returned.

About Jack Weatherly

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